Michael S. Harper

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For other uses, see Michael Harper (disambiguation).

Michael Steven Harper (born March 18, 1938) is an American poet from Brooklyn, who was the Poet Laureate of Rhode Island from 1988 to 1993. He has published ten books of poetry, two of which - Dear John, Dear Coltrane (1970) and Images of Kin (1977) - have been nominated for the National Book Award. A great deal of his poetry is influenced by jazz and history.[1] Many of his poems have been included as important examples of African-American literature and jazz poetry in various anthologies. Harper often writes about his wife, Shirley (commonly referred to as "Shirl"), their children, and their ancestors, as well as friends and various black historical and cultural figures.


Harper earned his B.A. and M.A. from California State University, Los Angeles, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa.

As of 2011, Harper lives in Barrington, Rhode Island. He is the longest serving professor of English at Brown University, where he continues to teach poetry workshops to undergraduates.[2]

In 1993, Nathan A. Scott in the "Afro-American Poetry" article of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics wrote, "Harper has created a body of work which, though it has won much respect and admiration, deserves to be far more widely known than it is."[3]


As writer
  • 1970: Dear John, Dear Coltrane,[3] nominated for the National Book Award[1]
  • 1971: History Is Your Own Heartbeat,[3] won the Black Academy of Arts & Letters Award for poetry[1]
  • 1972: Song: "I want a Witness"[3]
  • 1973: Debridement (also included in Images of Kin 1977)[4][5]
  • 1975: Nightmare Begins Responsibility[3]
  • 1977: Images of Kin, won the Melville-Cane Award from the Poetry Society of America; nominated for the National Book Award[1]
  • 1985: Healing Song for the Inner Ear[3]
  • 1995: Honorable Amendments[1]
  • 2000: Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems[1]
  • 2002: Selected Poems, ARC Publications[1]

He has released one CD, of poetry accompanied by jazz music:

  • 2004: Double Take: Jazz - Poetry Conversations, Paul Austerlitz, bass clarinetist/composer, innova Records, made through the American Composers Forum's Recording Assistance Program, underwritten by the McKnight Foundation.
As editor
  • Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Literature, Art and Scholarship (1979, ed. with Robert B. Stepto)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Web page titled "Michael S. Harper" at the Academy of American poets website, accessed April 23, 2008
  2. ^ Michael S. Harper, University Professor, Brown University.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Preminger, Alex and T.V.F. Brogan, et al., editors, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 1993, Princeton University Press and MJF Books, "Afro-American Poetry" article, by Nathan A. Scott Jr., p. 25.
  4. ^ Mikaelian, Allen, with Mike Wallace, (2002). - Medal of Honor: Profiles of America's Military Heroes from the Civil War to the Present. - New York: Hyperion. - p. 253. - ISBN 978-0-7868-6662-5.
  5. ^ Harper, Michael S. - Debridement. - Poetry Foundation

Further reading[edit]

  • Lerner, Ben (ed.).To Cut Is To Heal: A Critical Companion to Michael S. Harper's "Debridement". Providence, RI: Paradigm Press, 2000. 9780945926573

External links[edit]